Bishop on a Quest of Musical Enlightenment

Introducing William Tempest Bishop

I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with William a fair number of times over the years. In fact, it seems that no rock has been left unturned – even in obscure places like Worcester (Western Cape), Mooirivier (Kwazulu Natal), and Windhoek (Namibia), we can’t escape a collision with this man. We found him again in Durban (Kwazulu Natal)  in July, just days before we bumped into him once more in Northam (Limpopo Province) at the nationally renowned annual festival of ‘Oppikoppi’. This ever-frequent occurrence of sightings is not surprising, considering that William appears on stages across the country under one guise or the other, living “the dream” of rock stardom. William Tempest Bishop is one of South African Metal’s few true ‘professional’ musicians – in that music is quite literally his profession.

Although we in the metal community might only know him as the rowdy bassist for South Africa’s notorious Death Metal trio, Architecture of Aggression, William Bishop represents a myriad of musical possibility and he allows nothing to stand in his path of exploration.

We decided to talk to him about how he has accomplished what many others simply aspire towards. We wanted to find out if he feels the glamour of the road, or if work is work no matter what you do, and we wanted to probe into the rumours about the one and only William Bishop exploring a solo career in music.

Chilling beneath a thornbush infront of the “Most Amazing Myn Stage” at Oppikoppi…

DF: Hi William. I’ll not ask you to introduce yourself, since that’s already been taking care of! But, can you please tell our readership, briefly, what other bands you presently perform with?

WB: After Fuzigish and AoA the third band I’m permanently involved with is Haggis & Bong, for those of you not aware of the “Celtic Force”, Haggis & Bong consists of two killer Bag pipers (Gus Groovespear Nixon and Dominic Skelton), one bad ass Metal drummer (Tom from All Forlorn), a truly sick Funk Bassist (Xavier Knox from Man as Machine) and myself on Trombone. Its an utterly unlikely collection of instruments but we gel brillianly, by far one of the most unique sounds on the live circuit. I have done a lot of work with the slashdogs lately as well as a number of other guest appearances. I love to jam with people. All sorts of people. Its just fun and also really fucking good for you.

DF: Since we’re a metal-orientated site, most of our readers are metalheads, first-and-foremost. Some may be quite surprised to learn that you perform with such a diverse range of genre. Do you find that people who know you from your work as bassist for Architecture of Aggression are a bit taken back when they discover you are not bound exclusively to the metal genre?

WB: In general I don’t find the metal fans taken aback at all. I have come accross some close minded metal heads in the past but they have been few and far between. Same thing in the punk scene really, you’ll always get those policeman who want to keep things pure. But fuck em. They aint the ones making the music. I’ve noticed that people are developing a wider taste in music, and this has been allowed to happen very much because of the internet.

DF: What about vice-versa? Are people ‘on the other side’ sometimes surprised to hear that you also play for an extreme death metal outfit?

WB: I would have to say that in this regard I have certainly had more shocked faces, very much because of AoA’s image. Some people don’t expect me to be involved in something so brutal. But that has changed, about 4 years ago I certainly did get a few very confused faces but after touring so thoroughly with both Fuzi and AoA people tend to see me as a member of both.

DF: Tell us more about your classical training… and how you made the shift into alternative music styles?

WB: I took music and trombone through matric and then for four years at the University of Pretoria. I never really made a shift, I just started playing with Leek when I was in standard 9. That was amusing! I rocked up for the first few rehearsals with a music stand and manuscript paper… I would actually right out the parts I was figuring out. They told me there was no way Im having that stand on stage so I quickly learned to memorise the stuff. I find that my classical training has been invaluable in my efforts in composition, its nice to know what rules you’re breaking.

DF: In following your timeline, I see that you joined both Architecture of Aggression and Fuzigish virtually simultaneously. Has there ever been a conflict of interests between the two bands over your availability?

WB: I have had a few clashes but both bands have always been very understanding and supportive. My favourite problem is having two shows in one night at different venues. Its stressful but I feel great after pulling it off. Not much fun for our managers though… shame!

DF: And now you’re making contributions to the live performances of the Slashdogs as well as Haggis & Bong. How is everybody coping? Do you ever feel that some of the guys are a bit apprehensive towards the wide spread of your creative resources?

WB: Music is all I do and performance takes preference over teaching, so with out an actual day job I have the time and ability to spread myself as far as I have. I don’t think I will be taking on anymore in the near future as this solo project of mine is steadily going to fill all the space left and then more. So no, the guys tend to encourage me across all the projects.

DF: What can you tell us about this solo venture that we’ve been hearing these rumours about? Please elaborate, if you wish. Publishing large amounts of information online is cheap 😉

WB: I’ve been putting together the concept for this project for about 7 years now. It is my lifes work. A lot of what it is I’m still keeping a surprise but one thing I will tell you is that it is going to be “genreless”/”postgenre”/”transgenre”…. get the idea? I find working inside one genre a little like painting with one colour. I like lots of colours so expect the unnexpected! The first track is a mix between a lullaby, folk music, death and power metal. I’ll be releasing a new track every 3 or 4 months as a music video or animation until there are enough out there to put together a super bad ass band and tour them.

DF: Do you think that this is likely to impact your involvement with the existing musical partners, or is somebody going to be seeing less action down the line?

WB: I don’t see it influencing anyone in the near future and if I have my way- never, but I would not be doing justice to my soul and my music if I did not put my solo project high on my priority list. I do forsee more and more of my time being devoted to it, but whether that will affect the other acts, we’ll have to see.

DF: With your strong academic background in music, we know that you also teach.  Tell us some.

WB: I’ve been teaching theory, trombone, bass guitar and trumpet in various schools for the last seven years. I recently put together a home studio and have since moved most of my teaching there. I teach trombone at Pretoria Boys High School and Bass guitar/trombone and trumpet privately. For rock muso’s who never got their theory down… Im a theory fanatic so I can help you!

DF: What kind of stuff are your students mostly interested in: Classical or Rock and Metal?

WB: Rock and Metal for sure, but they also don’t tend to mind classical as much as I think my generation did. Dare I say it… a little more open minded..?

DF: Let’s hear more about Isandlwana Music. This is the name of your studio-dash-music school? What does the word Isandlwana mean?

WB: The story of Isandlwana is a long one but suffice to say that Isandlwana was the location of a battle between the Zulu’s and the British that occured in 1879. The Zulu army completely overran the well equiped and trained British forces and slaughtered everyone. It represents something truly powerful to me- The underdog victorious. The financial interests that ran the British Empire back then are the same banks that are screwing the world out of everything it is worth today so I see my studio as a continuation of the battle and ultimate victory that was Isandlwana. I went there last year and I recommend it. It is a most chilling place.

DF: I was curious to hear on the Architecture of Aggression album: “Acts of God…” that some of the tracks were created at Isandlwana. Do you do work with some of your other bands there as well, or is it geared more towards your solo work?

WB: It is primarily geared towards my solo work, but I have recorded the recent Haggis trombone parts here and will certainly be working on many other projects from here. Any bands looking for horn sections on a song, – gimme a shout. I will write and record it here and send it to you. Another thing I’ve become truly fond of is just recording jams with the myriad of musicians that move through my studio every week. Its quite a socialy active environment as well as a musical one.

DF: Tell us a little about the lifestyle of being a pro musician.

WB: I get to sleep late! That’s a definite plus… not because I get more sleep, as I tend work late, but I avoid the whole rat race vibe. I end up doing a whole load of jobs that all relate to music- practicing, teaching, performing, recording, admin and partying. Partying and socialising is one of the pros and in a sense a requirement of the job but it can also be extremely taxing. By far the most positive aspect of my career, is getting to know so many brilliant people.

DF: Any regrets?

WB: Not yet!!

DF: Surely there must be huge pressure at time. How do you cope?

WB: Firstly you’re making music for fuck sakes… can it really get much better? Jamming is therapy. Next is to meditate. Its so important to be able to still your mind, especially if you’re going to get up on stage. You can’t afford to be worying about bills or petty squables so meditation is something that works really well for me. Next is just having a really large and loyal support base. My friends are worth the world to me.

DF: What would you say is the key formula to achieving the goal of becoming a pro muso?

WB: Understand the business. You will get screwed so easily and that will kill your momentum and waste time. More important than that would be to NEVER forget why you chose this life. You chose it because you love that feeling of becoming sound incarnate, not because you love groupies, drugs or being idolised. When ever you perform wether its on stage or in studio- do justice to the music.

DF: Wise words indeed!  Do you think that somebody is either built for it or not, or can anybody achieve this feat?

WB: My experience from teaching has taught me that some people create music more easily than others. This is especially obvious when you work on just jamming with students. The biggest barrier is a confidence one. Let go of the fear and even the least talented can create. So yeah… my gut tells me that anyone can but they must know themselves to do so, and not fear the results.

DF: What else would you like to say before we wish you well on your way?

WB: You are born perfect and you will die perfect. Everything happens as it must. There is no such thing as failure- only the illusion of it. You are G.o.d. I am G.o.d. There is nothing that is not G.o.d. Infinity is the number of G.o.d. Manifest Destiny.